Ignited – Chapter Two

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We are now 3 weeks away from Ignited’s release!!! To tide you all over until then, here is the 2nd chapter in Ignited! And look who gets to lead it, MJ. Enjoy!

CHAPTER 2
MJ
Maddy’s beautiful mouth falls as she gasps.
“I–I don’t know if I can.”
“Try. That’s all I’m asking.”
“No, it’s not. You don’t know what you’re asking.
That dream … it’s different. I can’t—I can’t explain it.
It’s just—”
Tears line her eyes. Moisture fills the air around us,
ready and waiting to fall as rain the moment that teardrop
breaks free. I will not be the reason behind her pain. I pull
her into me, wrapping my arms around her.
“Hey. It’s okay. You don’t have to explain. I know you
were unconscious and had no control over anything that
happened to you. I just wanted to understand what you
saw and how you saw it. We don’t need to try it. It’s fine.
Nothing is more important to me than you.”
For several moments, she’s silent in my arms. But her
emotions are so chaotic, my essence can barely keep up.
Just as swiftly, though, her emotions settle inside her and
calmness fills the air around us. She’s made her decision.
We’re done for the day. I’m not disappointed or upset by
this. I will never force her to do anything she doesn’t want
to do. I respect her choice.
“If we do this,” she begins, “and it does work,
what then?”
I arch a brow, caught off guard by her question.
Does this mean she’s considering it? I choose my next
words carefully, not wanting to sway her one way or
the other. “We could practice—work on strengthening
this ability—”
“No. I mean, what will you do if this works and you
relive that day all over again?”
My mouth opens, but nothing comes out. Her words
sink in, leaving their mark on my soul. I’ve battled millions
of demons and secretly fought against the leader of
the Fallen. Not once did anyone worry for me. Of course
she would.
Me, I hadn’t thought it through that far. If she could
somehow recreate that day and make it feel just as real
as her bridge does … I don’t know what I’d do. It’s not
something I can predict, having never experienced or even
contemplated something like this before. Any other dream
or any other day wouldn’t matter as much, but this is different—
just as she said. It’s the day I failed everyone.
I take an unnecessary breath to push back my thoughts
before I say, “I’ve spent my afterlife trying to atone for
the mistakes I made that day. Perhaps seeing it from
an outsider’s perspective, I could put my own personal
‘demons’ to rest.”
She leans back, and I’m once again lost in the deep
green forest of her eyes. “Okay. I’ll try. But I can’t guarantee
it will work.”
Gently, I place my hand on her cheek—my essence
strengthens inside her. I search out her doubts, trying to
give her the reassurance she needs. Instead I find her heart
racing and her muscles tightening. Even though I can’t read
her mind, I don’t need to. I’ve been matching her emotions
to the thoughts she’s shared, trying to put them together so
I can figure her out and not be so clueless. She isn’t doubting
herself. She’s afraid.
“It’s okay,” I say. “If it works, we’ll be together. And
besides, we know how this works, right? One touch sends
us there. The next one sends us back. You’ll be safe. I’ll be
fine. I promise.”
Her eyes narrow, searching me as she mulls it over for
a moment. Then she nods. “Okay.”
I nod back. “Would it help you concentrate on sending
us if I described the scene to you?”
She shudders. “No. I doubt I’ll ever forget it. I’ll try to
bring us to the part where you met the Village Girl—”
“Lifa. And what do you mean, ‘try’?”
“This is different than the bridge. The bridge is a
real, physical place. This was a dream—a nightmare of
a dream—that doesn’t really exist. Not anymore. Plus,
getting there is only part of the problem. There was a lot
going on in the village. I wouldn’t want us to land in a
pile of rubble or in a fire or in front of people. I don’t even
know if they can see us.”
“It was a dream, Maddy. A vision. It may have felt real,
but it wasn’t. There’s nothing to fear by going back into it.
Dreams can’t hurt you.”
She huffs and shakes her head in disbelief.
“Do you think I would willingly put you at risk?”

For a moment, I think she’s going to argue, then she
bites her lip and turns away. I close the small gap between
us, wrapping my arms around her. My essence feeds off the
excitement building inside her. Within a second, it returns
to me. The outside world falls away, and I’m once again lost
in the dense forest of her emerald-green eyes. I lean down.
Her warm breath kisses my lips—mine are dry, itching to
touch hers.
“You can do this, Maddy. I believe in you.”
Her eyes widen, and then she shuts them.

***

Darkness descends on me—my body twists and
tightens as if it were being sent through a clothes wringer.
Suddenly the feelings vanish. The darkness fades, and I
open my eyes. Thick black smoke covers the sky. Screams
echo on the wind, which carries the scent I’ve tried to forget.
The smell is my people burning.
I reach for my sword and feel nothing but the coarse
fabric of my jeans.
“MJ!” a voice cries out. I follow the sound to my
Maddy crouching behind a broken wooden cart fifteen feet
in front of me.
I’m torn between rushing to her and rushing to help
my people. There is nothing I can do for them, though.
They all died. This is just a recreation existing in an alternate
plane, like the version of the bridge she sends us to,
but it’s more lifelike than any dream.
Maddy waves her hand, motioning for me to come to
her. If I don’t, it’s just a matter of time before she comes to
me. Besides, her cart offers more protection, even though it

looks as if it might fall apart at any moment. I rush to her
side, taking care not to touch her.
“We didn’t stay together,” she says.
I think back to all the times she’s taken us to the
bridge. No matter what our original position was, it would
be different when we arrived on the bridge. We could be
standing, sitting, or lying down. The distance between
us could be anywhere from a few inches to several feet.
The only thing that remained consistent was that we were
never touching there.
“Maybe that’s just how it works,” I reply. “Or maybe
that will change once you can control it more.”
A thud sounds on the other side of the cart. Maddy
crawls underneath the cart, but it isn’t stable. The front
end is smashed, and the left wheel is barely hanging on. It
could collapse and crush her.
I take a breath, reminding myself this is a dream, and
dreams can’t hurt her, then I follow her under the cart.
A woman lays on the ground with her foot caught on a
human bone—what’s left of one of the villagers. Her dress
is tattered and torn, and her face is hidden behind dirty
golden locks. But still, I know who it is. Lifa.
All at once, I’m lost in a forgotten memory.
***
Nikolas struggled, his back to me, trying to free his
sword from his scabbard. Seizing the opportunity, I
stepped behind him and raised my sword to his neck,
pressing the blade below his chin.
“Gaze upon your destiny. With this sword I will
cleave your lying, maggot mouth from your swine head!” I

roared. The corners of my mouth twitched upward, ready
to celebrate besting him yet again, but I fought the urge.
For a moment, he was as still as a night with no moon.
Silence from him was a victory in and of itself. Before I
could mock him more, he thrust his head back into my
nose. The snap echoed through the woods. I let out a curse
as he broke free.
He raised his sword—now free from its leather
prison—and stared down the blade at me. “If I were destined
to meet my maker by the end of a sword, it would
not be held by a carrion-eater like you.”
I wiped my arm across my face and winced from the
pain. “There is no shame in admitting defeat, Nikolas,” I
said. “Bow out now, while you still can.”
He smiled, defiance shining through his blue eyes as he
circled me. “And swear fealty to you, Magnus? Wild beasts
will feast on my entrails long before that happens.”
The sound of horse hooves came from behind him.
Moments later, an old gray mare with a ratted mane exited
the woods pulling a cart. The cart had two passengers—a
farmer and his daughter. Nikolas’s eyes widened, then he
sheathed his sword and set about fixing his tunic and hair.
I smirked and straightened, then got to work inspecting
the damage done to my face. For the moment our fight
was no more. Seeing the love of his life—as he called her—
always took the fight out of him.
She glanced at Nikolas, then tucked a strand of blonde
hair behind her ear and smiled. He stood there like a buffoon
as they passed.
I sighed, then moved to stand beside him. “Have you
spoken to her yet?” I asked.

He shook his head. “She is perfection. I cannot lay
claim to her hand in marriage no more than I can ask for
the throne.”
“She is a farmer’s daughter, not a princess.”
“But that is the life she deserves. The most I could ever
be is a warrior like our fathers.”
“So be a warrior. Save the kingdom with me. Her father
would not refuse a hero.”
“Help me make that happen, Magnus, and I will swear
fealty to you. I will be in your debt, in this life and the
next. She is worth it.”
***
The memory fades, and I’m once again lying beside
Maddy in the dirt under a cart on the day I died. Her
breath stills as we hear a voice—my voice—speaking to Lifa.
“I don’t get it,” Maddy says. “I can’t understand
them now.”
“You could in the dream?”
“Yes. Everyone was speaking English. Now
they’re not.”
My brows furrow, further plagued by the mysterious
woman I love. “What you’re hearing is my native language.
I’ve spoken a little bit of it to you.”
“Why was it English last time?”
“I don’t know.”
I glance over at her, and she’s watching on, wide-eyed,
absorbing it all. She doesn’t understand the significance or
the events that led to this tragic day.

I lean in and whisper, “My best friend, Nikolas, was
in love with Lifa. When we heard news of Sigurdsson and
his men raiding her village, Nikolas raced here to find her.
I told my warriors to save the citizens and kill our enemies
while I searched for Nikolas. Instead I found her.”
Strangers’ voices stem from around the corner, and I
watch on as my dream-self pulls Lifa to her feet and runs
up the dirt path to the field. But I know there is no salvation
up the hill. In a few minutes, it will all be over. I’ll
die, and she’ll be sentenced to a short, miserable life. The
leader of the Fallen will win again.
I don’t want to see it again. This is harder than I
expected. But I need to see where I went wrong. I need to
see if there was anything I could have done differently that
day to save her. I move to follow them, but then the strangers’
voices around the corner change into raucous laughter
as a man hollers out in pain—calling them carrion eaters. I
know that voice.
Shortly after I died and arrived in Immortal City, I
was reunited with Nikolas. He wouldn’t tell me about his
death, and I didn’t press him. We had been at war. He died
in battle. It was all I needed to know back then, though I
always carried the weight of failing him.
If Lifa and I had stayed a few seconds longer, we
would have heard him. We would have found him, and I
would have reunited them. I wish I could somehow control
Maddy’s dream and choose what I want it to show
me. Then I could discover at last what had happened to
Nikolas. But I know I can see only what Maddy saw. And
because Maddy and I are still here in the village and not
following my dream-self and Lifa up the hill, I assume that
means the dream will end in a moment.

But then Nikolas cries out, and the sound echoes inside
me, shattering my control.
I rush out from underneath the cart toward Nikolas. In
the back of my mind, I know I shouldn’t be seeing this—
Maddy didn’t see this in her dream—but I can’t focus on
that. I maybe have seconds before this ends. I have to get
to him. I have to know what happened.
Around the corner three men surround something on
the ground. They move in a circle, kicking and spitting on
their prey. Between their legs, I catch glimpses of Nikolas’s
bloody, beaten face. He is dying right in front of me. I have
to save him. Even if it isn’t real.
Searching for anything to use as a weapon, I find a
splintered piece of wood. It’s over three feet long and
heavy, though it fits in my grasp. It may not kill them, but
it will knock at least one of them out.
My hands tighten around my impromptu weapon as
I march upon my enemies. Nikolas cries out again as they
kick him. I should have been here to help him.
I’m here now.
I stop behind the largest one and pull back, aiming for
his head. I swing forward, but the moment before I connect,
someone touches my arm.
***
Nikolas, his killers, and the ravaged village disappear.
Suddenly I’m on my back, staring up at Maddy on
Hiniker Bridge.

fin

I hope you enjoyed chapter two! I know we didn’t get to see a lot of Maddy’s abilities from MJ’s side in Unclaimed so I really wanted to explore that in Ignited and let you all experience it. And this is only chapter two! Be sure to stop back next week for chapter three!

Always,

Laurie

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